Big Island Comedians Host Virtual Special FridayMay 29, 2020, 12:30 PM HST (Updated May 29, 2020, 12:51 PM)
Like so many parts of life and culture, standup comedy disappeared when coronavirus arrived in Hawai‘i, as venues closed their doors and performers receded into quarantine.
This Friday, however, some of the more notable names in Big Island comedy will return to a stage (of sorts) when Dirty Girl Comedy airs its first online-only show, Comedy In The Time Of COVID. Beginning at 7 p.m. HST, fans can find a link to a YouTube Premier video by visiting the Dirty Girl Comedy event invite on Facebook and Instagram. The link will remain active for at least 24 hours. Those who tune in will see a lineup of all-female comedians beginning with Aurora Hermanns, followed by Tiffany Yamauchi, Nikki Gour and Justine Smith. The headliner, and final performer, is Simmone P.
Smith was the driving force behind the hour-long, virtual comedy special after taking part in a recent show organized by a comic on Maui.
“We live in such a small community and we, as a group of performing women, have been so thankful for the following and support we’ve had (at live shows),” said Gour, who teamed up with Smith to plan and shoot the pre-recorded special. “Sit with popcorn and booze, or a mocktail if you don’t drink, and enjoy an hour of people you know, and some you don’t, use talents and keep entertainment going.”
Work on the special began about a month ago. Putting an online show together presented unique challenges to two comics used to standing on stage and feeding off of a crowd, not adjusting webcams and operating Zoom videoconferencing software.
“We did a pre-recorded show and looking at it all, I’m really glad we did it that way,” Smith said. “We took turns like we would in a normal show. … We had some technical difficulties, but it wouldn’t be a Dirty Girl Comedy show without technical difficulties. It’s pretty hilarious. We left it in.”
Technical challenges were just the beginning. While the element of standing — vulnerable and alone — underneath a spotlight in front of a large group of people armed with nothing but your creativity is often the most daunting prospect of standup comedy for those just starting out, changing every aspect of that environment can prove disruptive to comedians who’ve grown comfortable entertaining crowds.
“We did have the other ladies on with us. Their cameras were off but their mics were still on, so we had a little bit of that energy, but it was nothing like a live show,” Gour said. “It was very revealing to me the way that I do comedy, especially after watching myself do it.”
Gour said the format messed with her flow a little bit, as did the energy missing from the typical connection between comedian and crowd. But getting a chuckle or a laugh from respected colleagues, all of whom remained on the Zoom call throughout the one-hour set, helped replace what was missing.
The virtual experience was similar for Smith.
“When I perform it’s so much about the crowd and my interaction with them,” she said. “A lot of my comedy is physical. I know that I could add it in, but watching some other comics try to do some physical stuff, it’s difficult to do. Moving further away from the camera creates a barrier with the audience.”
Despite the challenges, after performing online comedy for the first time, Smith said she’s excited to do more virtual work.
“After doing it and sparking that creativity, I’m really looking forward to doing more shows online,” Smith said. “It occurred to me doing it in this format reaches a much broader audience. Even though the live shows do well, and I love my venues and crowd, this is an opportunity for people from all over to see the great comics.”
“It’s exhausting putting on a live show,” she continued. “As much as I love the crowd, it’s also battling the crowd to get their attention. (Performing online) is exhilarating. I don’t have to put a bra on to perform. It’s been really awesome.”
The comedy special, as filmed, will play as more of a video diary on a reality TV program than it will a standup show. The delivery, and how the audience receives it, will add another layer of interest to the experience considering the natural edge to the comedic material. Both comics said their show is R-rated and ripe with adult content.
“It’s called ‘Dirty Girl Comedy’ for a reason,” Smith said.
During her set, Gour examines COVID-19 through the lens of the five stages of grief from the perspective of a frisky 31-year-old woman who’s been robbed of most of her social life for more than two months.
Smith will also tackle quarantine, as it’s been hard to have a conversation in any context that didn’t include some talk of the virus since COVID-19 arrived and impacted almost every element of normal life.
“I’m an introvert,” Smith said. “I love being home and being in my own element and being creative. I’m really living my best life in quarantine right now.”
While Friday night’s show is free, those interested in donating to a comic can do so via Venmo at the following handles:
Dirty Girl Comedy is also planning an online sketch comedy, The Big Sketch Comedy Show, which is coming soon.